This is an illustration to the famous story, given in Plutarch's Life of Alexander, of how Alexander the Great encountered the cynic philosopher Diogenes living in a wooden tub on the outskirts of Corinth. On being asked if there was anything he wanted, Diogenes replied that he would like Alexander to move out of his sun. Martin displays a typical multitude of tiny figures against a fantastic townscape.
Martin had already treated the subject in a number of works including a small sepia drawing of 1817 (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum); a small oil exhibited at the Egyptian Hall in 1822 (formerly Col. M. H. Grant collection), and a watercolour engraved by E. Finden in two different versions in 1827 (London, Victoria and Albert Museum). This last watercolour is squarer in format than the present version, 9 7/8 x 12 3/8 in., and shows the water descending on the left in two distinct falls, with a less varied and elaborate architectural background (see C. Johnstone, John Martin, London, 1974, p. 68, illustrated in colour).